According to the State of Agile Report 2020, 95% of the respondents ( no. of respondents over 40000) prefer Agile Development methodology. Agile follows the iterative and incremental model while promoting cross-functional team setups across the organization, i.e., the three key elements of Agile Methodology that ensure success.
The upshot of it — ability to organize work in time-boxed sprints, flexibility for to-and-fro movement across the development cycle, and faster time to market as everyone in the team works collaboratively towards a common goal.
The Agile project management strategy has rewired the organizational software development process over the years while defying the golden hammer bias related to the Waterfall methodology, which leads to piling technical debts.
Here’s everything you need to know about how this development approach will benefit the value proposition while ensuring your product’s time to market.
What is Agile Development Methodology?
The Agile Development methodology is the innovative approach to develop software products where flexibility and speed hold precedence. Agile introduces the iterative and incremental development method to ensure foolproof and accelerated delivery.
Traditionally, development methodologies such as Waterfall dominated the software industry. But, then it followed a rigid path where no backward movement was permitted. This left no room for adding newer features while it made maintenance a challenging process.
The worst thing you can deliver in a two-year project is exactly what the customer wanted on day one. — Mike Cohn, Contributor, Scrum Software Development Method
The Agile process addresses this issue by not only allowing backward tracking but also allows working in increments where smaller parts of the broader feature set are developed in time-boxed cycles.
The Agile approach to software development follows the typical development process, i.e., — requirements gathering, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. However, the strategy to approach each of these stages changes when implementing Agile development methodology.
Here is what attributes the Agile Development methodology:
- Iterative development — handling feature creep and bugs
- Incremental development — developing software in smaller segments that add up to make up the larger product later on
- Working in time-boxed sprints — weekly or monthly cycles organized to deliver a workable user story
- Cross-functional setups — constant communication and collaboration among the different teams across the organization to ensure everyone’s on the same page
- Efficient management of product backlogs — making informed-decisions when planning for the next sprint cycles in the Agile Product Development process
- Retrospectives — learning from past experiences and rectifying the mistakes in the following sprints and projects
What is Agile Product Development?
When Agile development values and principles are followed when developing a new digital product, it is called Agile Product Development. The intent of the Agile Product Development methodology is to ensure:
- Product-market fit
- Faster time to market
- Quality delivery
- Continuous integration and delivery
What are the Four Core Values of Agile Methodology?
17 technologists brainstormed and came up with the four values for Agile Software Development methodology, which stated:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work, we have come to value:
1. Individuals & Interactions Over Processes & Tools
Focusing on communication, this value gives individuals and interactions greater importance than the processes and tools. If teams align, they can drive the process more effectively while responding faster to the business and functional requirements.
2. Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
Agile software methodology streamlines documentation and offers developers what they need to maintain their work without getting stalled in technicalities. The Agile Manifesto values documentation, yet, it values working programming more.
3. Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
The Agile Manifesto favors customer collaboration over contract negotiations. Agile also allows an open-end discussion between the customer and the developers. It enables the coordinated teams to align better with the customer requirements to avoid existing Agile anti-patterns.
4. Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
This value focuses on being receptive to the customers’ demands during the Agile product development life cycle rather than creating elaborate plans right at the beginning that are dismissive of changes.
Blending these values in an organization’s culture is a recommended path to a foolproof delivery.
What are the Principles of Agile Development?
There is another part to the Agile Manifesto, i.e., the 12 Agile development principles. Here’s an illustration to depict each of them:
What are the Stages of Agile Development?
The Agile Development lifecycle process follows the plan, code, test, deploy, and repeat model. The stages are similar to traditional software development lifecycle.
Every organization’s Agile journey is different! However, Agile is not a pre-decided path to success that you should follow. Instead, it introduces daily-standups and retrospective practices that help identify what the Agile Software development teams learned from past experiences and where improvements are required.
Here’s an overview of the basic Agile methodology process:
1. Requirements Gathering
The initial user problems that can be solved are prioritized by the scrum masters, product owners, and the team comprising designers, developers, and testers.
Scrums and daily standups are arranged to ensure regular and meaningful brainstorming sessions.
If the product is trying to propose an innovative solution, a PoC is developed to check the idea’s feasibility and the associated technology.
Prototypes are also built at this stage for product owners and stakeholders to approve.
The engineering teams work in accordance with the designed software architecture and build user stories in time-boxed sprints. They collaborate with the testing team at the end of every sprint to identify and fix issues.
The developers can also implement pair programming where one developer types the code, and the other developer reviews those lines of written code to increase speed and productivity.
The Agile Testing team members jump in at the end of every sprint cycle to identify the bugs and inconsistencies. The agile testing team conducts various types of software tests and reports the bugs back to the developers. The developers then plan and fix the code in the following sprints.
The testers also conduct pair testing where two testers sit at the same system, where one tester tests the code and the other reviews and builds the report around it.
This stage of Agile Development involves launching the completed user stories in the market. This starts with the launching of MVPs, i.e., the basic versions and the following user stories and launches follow as the initial feedback flows in.
When all the user stories are delivered and launched, the deployment is called the full-fledged product deployment.
This stage involves maintaining the product to accommodate newer changes and features and bugs and inconsistencies fixtures.
The Agile Development methodology promotes following the product mindset over the project mindset for maintenance, i.e., preference is given to managing the product throughout its lifetime.
Advantages of Agile Development Methodology
85% of 57,075 international surveyed software developers use Agile in their work.— StackOverflow
The Agile Development methodology efficiently handles the feature creep at any stage of the development process, without hampering the product quality or time to market. The additional benefit is the cross-functional team setup that it promotes through enabling constant collaboration and communication.
Here are some of the most prominent Agile methodology benefits:
1. Increased Value Proposition
Agile offers an enhanced value proposition in comparison to traditional product development approaches. This value is visible with respect to these parameters — visibility, adaptability, business value, and risk.
2. Speed to Market
The Agile Product Development process allows working in time-boxed sprints. Each of these sprints works on user stories in agile, i.e., a feature set that addressed the customers’ problems. Further, on completing each of these user stories, delivery follows once testing and refixing are completed.
The mentioned Agile practices quicken the speed to market or the lead time as the 12-18 month delivery cycles transform into 1-2 iterative delivery cycles.
Adaptability and acceptance to change is a major benefit of Agile Transformation. By flexibility, we mean that Agile Development methodology allows the to-and-fro motion across the development lifecycle while addressing the impediments on the way.
The Agile Testing team collaborates with the developers at the end of each sprint cycle to identify and fix inconsistencies there and then, unlike the traditional approach that treats development and testing independent of each other.
4. Risk Reduction
Agile Product development practices suggest to prioritize and organize your user stories well in advance. When these user stories are developed and delivered in the form of MVP, it helps gather feedback based on initial releases — forming the foundation for product backlog planning.
The iterative and incremental development thus results in foolproof deliveries, no matter how long the project lasts.
Here’s an illustration that depicts how risk reduces as you develop and deliver user stories often.
5. Addresses Technical Debt
In traditional product development approaches such as Waterfall, the testing team jumps in only when the development is over. In the absence of the cross-functional team setup, reworks’ cost increases as the inconsistencies pile up, which requires more time for fixing it.
On the other hand, Agile Project management fosters cross-functional setups where — collective ownership, constant communication, and swarming activities are given precedence to complete a task at a sustainable pace. This close collaboration, in turn, helps reduce technical debt, i.e., the additional cost of reworks.
6. High Quality
When one large task is subdivided into smaller tasks, it becomes easier for the Agile teams to master the iterations and the smaller tasks. It is about polishing the smaller tasks over messing the larger product for ensuring faster time to market.
The teams involved ensures that every sprint cycle oozes productivity, be it — designers, developers, or testers.
Commonly Used Tools/ Practices for Agile Project Management
To ensure that the Agile Product Development initiatives are streamlined, relying on product management tools can help. These include:
1. User Story Maps
User story maps help visualize features that the product should include. This visualized structure further helps in prioritizing user stories and divide them into “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features.
2. Product Roadmaps
A product roadmap is a shared source of information that highlights the vision, the prioritized user stories, and the progress status of the product under development. These roadmaps help ensure that the Agile team is on the same page while it also maintains the transparency of the process.
3. Niko-Niko Calendar
The Niko-Niko calendar is a date calendar that highlights each team member’s mood for the day. These calendars help in tracking the mood dynamics and the morale of the team. The mood changes help in identifying the factors leading to good/bad mood, which, further, helps in making the required changes for driving performance improvements.
Swarming is an activity where the different members of the Agile team come together to solve a problem related to the delivery of a user story. This is done at any product development stage, where everyone collaboratively works on the same prioritized task.
5. Customer Journey Maps
Customer journey maps are a visual representation of the steps that the customer navigates through while engaging with the product. Creating these maps after the launching of MVPs, help in identifying the bottlenecks in the customer experience your product offers. These insights can further help in planning for the next sprint cycles.
Agile Development Methodology — The Three Scrum Roles
Agile development includes the involvement of three scrum roles, i.e., the scrum master, the product owner, and the agile team. Here is an insight into their respective responsibilities:
1. Scrum Master
A scrum master is a professional responsible for maintaining the smooth running of the entire software development process. Scrum Master is also responsible for identifying and eliminating impediments that hinder productivity.
Other responsibilities of the scrum master involve:
- Coordinate with the product owner at all stages of the agile development process and help them strategize in a way that helps maximize ROIs
- Motivating the Agile Development teams to work in cross-functional setups, which, in turn, helps improve productivity
- Stay informed of the progress status and the future plans
2. Product Owner
The product owner maintains the flow of the requirements between the client and the Agile Development team. The primary responsibility narrows down to maintaining clear communication between the concerned parties to avoid requirements and implementation mismatch.
Other responsibilities of the product owner involve:
- Management of the product backlog
- Defining and prioritizing user stories
- Represent the client to the agile teams and vice versa
3. Agile Development Team
The agile team comprises professionals across departments, i.e., designers, architects, developers, and testers. This Agile team is a self-organizing team that works in cross-functional setups. The team works in collaboration in time-boxed sprints to achieve the task at hand.
The primary responsibilities of the Agile team involve:
- Creating a PoC (Proof of Concept) for finding the feasibility of the innovative idea
- Building a prototype to validate the UX and UI of the software product
- Developers work on user stories, and the agile testing team tests it for bugs at the end of every sprint cycle
- Launching of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that supports the most prominent features of the product
- Planning the product backlog, gathering feedback, and repeating the development cycle to work towards launching the full-fledged product
- Maintaining the product throughout its lifetime for adding features and fixing bugs and other inconsistencies
Processes Involved in Agile Development Methodology
Some of the prominent processes and practices followed by Agile Development methodology include:
1. User Story Prioritization
User stories or features are the functional requirements of the software under development. Before moving on with implementing the Agile Development methodology, the teams need to prioritize the user stories based on:
- Must-Have Features: These are the features that are essential for the software
- Nice-to-Have-Features: These are the features that can be worked upon later after the MVP is launched
2. Daily Standups/Daily Scrum
These are meetings that are conducted daily to measure the team’s progress while ensuring accountability.
Daily standups are essential for identifying the team’s problems, backlog grooming for planning for the coming sprints, the progress, and the team’s morale to — ensure that the Agile team is on the same page. At the same time, it maintains a sustainable pace for development.
These are activities that involve putting past experiences at the forefront. All the learnings are discussed so that the next sprint cycles or projects do not repeat past mistakes. It is all about learning from mistakes and finding better and foolproof ways to deliver the software.
Sprint cycles are a prominent part of the Agile Development methodology process. Here the prioritized user stories are divided into time-boxed sprints — weekly or monthly cycles at the end of which the completed user stories need to be delivered.
This is an activity to ensure the quality of the completed user story. INVEST stands for:
- Independent — The user story should be independent and loosely coupled with the other user stories
- Negotiable — The user stories should be open for reviews. The team should be able to modify and delete the user stories based on the changing requirements
- Valuable — The individual user story should offer value to the client and the end-user
- Estimable — Agile estimation should be feasible, i.e., the user story size and its future scope should be estimable
- Small — The user story size should be small enough to be achieved in a few days or weeks. When the user stories get extended over that period, the user stories are referred to as epics, which, in turn, need to be broken down into smaller segments that can be achieved conveniently by the Agile teams
- Testable — The user story should be independently workable and testable
In case the user story fails at any of the mentioned parameters, it implies that the team needs to rework on it.
Myths Around Agile Development Methodology
The Agile development model is puddled in many myths that hamper the product development process while evoking negative sentiments around it. Here are some of them:
Myth 1: “A”gile and “a”gile are Same
Agile with capital “A” is associated with software or product development, i.e., a process that follows the Agile Manifesto values to develop timely deliverables while celebrating collaboration across the organizational hierarchy.
It is about doing Agile!
On the other hand, agile with a small “a” is associated with organizations following the Agile Manifesto values to drive productivity at the organizational level by promoting collaboration and cross-functional setups. i.e., it applies to the way an organization works.
It is about being agile.
Myth 2: Iterating means Repeating Increments
You must have heard these two terms often over the daily standups, but what do they imply?
An iteration is a repetition of the agile development process to create a new user story or deliverable or a repetition of the Agile product development lifecycle to fix and polish the already created user stories.
Whereas, an increment is the delivery of a user story at the end of each sprint cycle. The collaboration of these increments helps create a fully-fledged product.
When these increments are loosely coupled and can function independently of the existing user stories, it is known to follow the microservices architecture.
Myth 3: Scrum and Agile are the Same
Most of the time, organizations confuse Agile Development and the scrum process to be the same. However, there is a difference between Agile methodology vs Scrum.
Simply put, Agile lays down the process, followed by software development teams to ensure quality and timely delivery. On the other hand, Scrum is one of the frameworks of Agile Development.
The Scrum guide explains the true intent of scrum, which states:
“A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”
Popularly known as Agile Scrum methodology, the idea behind the combined approach is to work collaboratively while maintaining constant communication among the different teams involved to accomplish a task at hand.
Here is how scrum addresses each of the Agile Manifesto values:
Key Metrics Prevalent in Agile Development Methodology
Here are some metrics to measure Agile development progress and performance:
1. Lead Time
This refers to the time between a requirement made and its delivery. The shorter the lead time, the better is the productivity.
2. Burndown Charts
These charts illustrate the amount of work that exists in the backlog.
3. Burnup Charts
These charts illustrate the amount of work that has been completed by the Agile team.
This measures the amount of work completed at the end of every sprint. The teams add up the efforts and see how many engineering hours and user stories are completed at any given time.
5. Work in Progress (WIP)
Restricts the amount of work that can be completed in every stage of the workflow. The WIP limit is et in numbers, i.e., if the WIP limit is 2, only two activities can be worked upon in the given time frame. These WIP limits help in identifying the bottlenecks in the development process.
Here’s a summary of the mentioned KPIs:
Agile at Scale — Introduction to SAFe
Agile Development methodology suits small projects and small teams working at an organizational level. For large projects that demand large teams working at an enterprise level, Agile Development causes problems. So, when it comes to implementing Agile at scale, SAFe is the way to go, i.e., Scaled Agile Framework.
According to the 14th State of Agile Report, 35% of the respondents (over 40,000) continue to use SAFe, making it the most popular scaling method for software development.
Here are the three building blocks of SAFe:
To get a more in-depth insight into SAFe, read through our comprehensive post on this enterprise-level product development framework.
Are you Truly Agile? Differentiating Between Fake and Real Agile
While many organizations claim to be adapting to the Agile product development environment, many are “Agile in Name Only.”
More than 90% of senior executives give high priority to becoming Agile, while less than 10% see their firm as currently highly Agile. — A survey by McKinsey & Deloitte
While you are on your road to Agile Transformation, do contemplate — are you actually doing Agile?
Here’s what a stalled Agile journey looks like:
You can identify Agile In Name Only (AINO) from real Agileby looking at these symptoms:
- There is no ongoing communication with the end-users while transiting through the process of creating a product
- The organization has no feedback and shipping cadence loops
- Requirements are not precise at any phase of the Agile Software development process
- The traditional development approach is still prevalent at some stage
If that is the case, rewire your Agile Development strategy. Start with early-stage Agile, i.e., take baby steps towards the Agile approach to product development. See how the small changes turn out and then slowly proceed towards making for the whole transformation.
Another way to manage the crisis is to approach experienced Agile experts that can lend a hand at developing ideally working software.
The Agile Development methodology is the rewired approach to software product development that focuses on flexibility and speed. Most of the digital products today are created using the Agile development method.
This comprehensive guide on Agile methodology touches base with everything Agile is about and how it benefits your bottom line. The secret to delivering working software in the market is to follow the Agile Methodology while also embracing the agile mindset.
In the words of Abraham Maslow — at any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.